Breeder Bernard Wentworth, who holds doctorates in poultry science and avian physiology, shares his thoughts on these special, great-tasting, little turkeys.
In 1971 only six specimens of the midget white turkey were alive. In 2008, they’ve won a taste test and have a reputation as an excellent homestead turkey.
HILARY CHESTER/ALWAYS SOMETHIN' FARM
The white midget turkey is rapidly developing a reputation as an amiable, small-flock turkey. Bernard Wentworth, who holds doctorates in poultry science and avian physiology, is credited as saving the breed from extinction. We wondered what was so special about the breed, so we asked Wentworth a few questions.
What made midget white turkeys so memorable from your early work with them?
It is a very attractive bird. Can you imagine a senior citizen couple sharing Thanksgiving alone and still having a beautiful roasted 10-pound turkey at their table?
In your experience, is there a flavor difference between midget whites and other breeds?
The midget white turkey develops very slowly (not economical). Consequently they would likely be older than the commercial turkey when consumed. Therefore it is likely the flavor would be more apparent.
Can you tell us more about if/how the temperament of midget whites differs from other breeds?
I do not know why this is true, but the midget white turkey is friendly, tame and likes people a great deal. Several people have had them as a pet trio (one male and two females) and they are enjoyed by the entire family. They can be a watchdog and a playmate around children.
What are the differences between midget whites and Beltsville whites?
The midget white and the Beltsville white (another small breed of turkey) are very different. The Beltsville white has longer legs and less breast muscle development. There is no comparison between the favorable appearances of the process midget as compared to the Beltsville white. The ready-to-eat Beltsville white is not as appealing as the midget white. The breast of the Beltsville is not very plump, and the keel bone is apparent and not hidden as a dimple of breast, as in the midget. Most likely the Beltsville white will lay more eggs in the season. I also do not believe the Beltsville white would make a good pet like the midget, for they tend to be rather high-strung.
How small are mature midget whites?
Our selection criteria for the midget white at 20 weeks of age were a 13-pound tom and an 8-pound hen.
What advice would you give someone who wants to keep a backyard flock of midget whites?
Protect them from predators when they are young. Since they are small, they are more subject to predation by cats, dogs, raccoons, hawks and owls while growing up.
Is raising turkeys more challenging than raising chickens?
Yes, raising turkeys is more challenging than raising chickens. Poults do not learn to eat as quickly as chicks do. Sometimes I even feel that poults do not learn to use the source of water as readily as do baby chicks. I also believe that turkey poults may pile up onto one another when frightened or cold more frequently than do young chicks.
Is it feasible for a homesteader to keep a tom and a couple of hens and expect the hens to hatch poults in the spring?
Yes, the midget hen is a good mother and she will do a good job incubating and raising the poults. I would suggest that while she is incubating that you remove the tom so he will not harass her while incubating. Watch the hen and poults carefully when she leaves the nest to make sure the tom does not injure the poults.
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